I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Monday, February 14, 2022

"Three pillars" as distances and 3P monsters

The three pillars of D&D are exploration, social interaction, and combat (there is also character development but that's another issue). Here is an UA that shows you how to give XP for each pillar (a decent idea IMO), and a quote from that document: 
Back when we were designing fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons, we talked about the game’s three pillars: exploration, social interaction, and combat. By thinking about social interaction and exploration as foundational aspects of D&D, we made sure we were always looking beyond combat when designing the game. Fighting easily draws the most attention in terms of rules and game balance, but the other two elements are just as important in making each game session exciting and unique.
In old school D&D, most XP came from gold; gold came from exploration; social interaction and combat were ways to get to the gold. Avoiding social interaction (through stealth) or combat (through interaction, also stealth, etc.) were valid methods. Getting XP through combat was riskier.

Since "XP for killing monsters" became the norm, D&D has been accused of being "only about combat", for obvious reasons (interaction and avoidance get discouraged if you must fight to earn XP). But XP is not the only issue. 

Combat has been somewhat improved in modern D&D, but social mechanics such as reaction rolls have been downplayed. Morale and retreat - two ways getting away from combat - also have been partly forgotten. Exploration become a bit less obvious, with rules for finding traps and hidden doors, for example, being more variable and opaque (i.e., the players do not necessarily know difficult is finding a secret door). Likewise, hexcrawls and navigation ("overland travel") have been a bit de-emphasized or relegated to supplements.

Anyway, back to monsters and combat.

One things that occurred me is seeing the three pillars as distances (or phases)

Exploration tells you where, when and how you will find the monster. These includes habitats, cycles, number of monsters found (also devalued in modern stat-blocks), etc.

Interaction tells you how the monster reacts to other creatures. Is it friendly, aggressive, curious, territorial, etc. What are its goals? How does it look? What about alignment? If the creature wants food, for example, it might be easy to distract or placate.

Combat is the last phase - how does the creature acts when attacked or cornered, etc. Adding a paragraph on tactics would be immensely useful for Dungeon Masters. Instead of going through the entire stat-block, game masters would instantly know what spell or attack to pick when the fight starts. In addition, here we should discuss morale and courage (is the creature willing to fight to the death? Not often), reminding the DM to avoid running every monsters like a Spartan at Thermopylae.

Now, if monsters were organized in these three topics (i.e., "three pillar monsters"), I feel they'd be easier to use. You might skip the exploration bit if running a published adventure, for example, and even the interaction bit if the adventure contains information such as "a hungry owlbear is hiding in this cave and attacks any creature on sight".

On the other hand, if the PCs want to find a green dragon and don't know where to look, just go to the "exploration" part of the text. If the GM wants to write its own material with a certain monster, "exploration" is the first section to read. 

If a monster appears on a random encounter, go to "interaction" first, and so on.

That's all for today. I'll leave you with a couple of quick examples. In practice, I might separate stats/numbers from flavor text.

(large monstrosity)
* Exploration
Uncommon, found in temperate hills/mountains; pride of 2d6; 25% in lair, treasure C/S. Griffons are large creatures with the hindquarters of a lion, etc.
* Interaction
Neutral (feral), semi-intelligent, will attack creatures when hungry or defending lair. Some griffons can be tamed by..., etc.
* Combat:
Griffons prefer to fly by, attack, and fly away when possible. If a creature seems helpless and small enough to carry, they'll grab it and fly away to their nests, preferring mules and cattle to armed humanoids.
Move: 12 (fly 30)
Attack (13): claw (1d4x2) and bite (2d8).
Defenses: AC 3, 7 HD, ML 11.

(medium undead)
* Exploration: Very rare, found anywhere (usually haunted ruins), solitary, 70% in lair (any), treasure D
Groaning spirits are cursed humanoids etc...
* InteractionChaotic evil, exceptional Int..
Torments and attacks living creatures for sport. Might talk to victims and play games (lead to traps, etc.) before attacking. They do not remember details of their past lives but might hold a grudge against their killers, etc.
* Combat
The spirit starts a fight with a horrendous wail, and then proceeds to attack survivors with its chilling touch. It fights and pursues the living until it is destroyed, but is usually bound to a certain area (a house, corridor, etc.).
Move: 15.
Attack (13): 1d8 chill touch, wail (3”, save versus magic or die).
Defenses: AC13, 7 HD, +1 or better weapon to hit, 50% MR.

Additional reading:

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